Cosmatesque: A Path to Knowledge

This unique tour provides a firsthand look at the magical cosmatesque mosaics in Rome.

Don’t miss this exclusive tour meant for anyone who appreciates meaningful art and architecture. Let our private guide, an expert of Cosmatesque pavements, walk and talk you through the powerful history of these shimmering frescoes under your feet.

In the 13th century, the Cosmati, a well-known Roman family of artists, created embellished marble masterpieces by mixing two mosaic techniques: opus sectile (cut work) and opus alexandrium (byzantine). The result is elaborate inlays of big circles, squares, small triangles and rectangles of colored stones and glass mosaics. As you are walking on Cosmatesque mosaics, the Christian spirituality will be revealed beneath your feet. 

The tour starts at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano. In this Papal Basilica you can walk on the extraordinary Cosmatesque floor in the nave and you can admire the famous Cosmatesque twisted columns in the cloister. From here, you will cross the street to La Scala Santa, the Holy Stairs, the gateway to the illustrious chapel Sancta Sanctorum. An exclusive visit to this significant chapel is also included in your tour. Afterwards, you will visit the church of The four Crowned Saints: the floor of the nave is a typical example of the decorative Cosmatesque pattern. Lastly, in the Basilica di San Clemente the Cosmatesque floor leads to the monumental apse mosaic with the Triumph of the Cross. You will explore the must-see underground levels that contain the remains of a Roman house and a Mythra Temple.  This special church is the most perfect example of the ‘layering effect’ in Rome, where you can visually see how the entire city is built on top of the ancient one.

Tour Highlights

  • Papal Basilica of St. John in the Lateran
  • La Scala Santa
  • Entrance to Sancta Sanctorum
  • The Church of The four Crowned Saints
  • Basilica di San Clemente

Tour Duration

3 Hours

Practical Info

Shoulders and knees must be covered while visiting most churches in Rome. Bring a scarf as a simple and fashionable way to cover the shoulders or knees in a pinch.


Our Cosmatesque tour with Alessandra was superb. She spoke excellent English and was very knowledgeable and was able to easily answer all of our questions. This tour is great for people with a love of history and ancient religion. The surprise is in the last stop on the tour… An underground fourth century church, a real unique experience!

Bonnie & Jim from Portland

I’m seeing Rome in a whole new light now that I’ve been on the Cosmatesque tour with Alessandra.  It’s easy to notice the grandeur of the structures still standing after 2000 years, and to get swept away by the beauty of the Renaissance art throughout Rome, but this tour helped me remember that Rome truly is the Eternal City — the Dark Ages were actually a time of great creativity, too.  Learning about the work of the Cosmati artists on this tour helped me appreciate the beauty of the artwork right below my feet in Rome’s great cathedrals; Alessandra’s knowledge about and passion for the subject are both immense (and contagious)!  This tour allowed me to visit places I would have never found on my own — visiting the papal chapel at the top of the Scala Santa is something I will never forget!  

Monica from Seattle

The Cosmatesque Walking Tour was the most interesting tour of the five tours I took in Rome.  The tour revealed a rich blend of history, art and architecture in things that I would otherwise not have noticed, from the marble floors to the columns and paintings in the many churches we visited.  Alessandra was a wonderful tour guide and extremely knowledgeable!

Tom from Omaha

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